Ukraine's separatist rebels to hold election in face of broad international criticism

Rebel-held territories in eastern Ukraine are preparing to elect a parliament and leader in a vote that has been roundly condemned by the international community but backed by Russia.

Work at some polling stations in the largest separatist-controlled city of Donetsk was disrupted Saturday, however, by a sudden intensification of hostilities. Artillery and small weapons fire could be heard in northern districts of the city, near the airport, which has been the focus of heavy fighting for weeks.

Separatist authorities argue that Sunday's vote in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk will lend legitimacy to their aspirations for self-determination. Western governments and the United Nations say it violates the terms of a cease-fire agreement reached in September.